2024 Emerging Artist Exhibition – Tyler Gillespie

Artist Statement

In the late 1950s, Florida’s former governor Charley Johns led the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee (FLIC). The committee was initially formed to investigate “racial strife and subversion.” They allegedly wanted to determine the “Communist plot to use racial tension in the south to set one segment of the population against the other.” Litigation prevented them from fully pursuing organizations like the NAACP. So, they turned their focus to the “numerous complaints about alleged homosexual activities” at Johns’ alma mater the University of Florida. They then proceeded to entrap homosexual teachers at various institutions.
To help hetrosexual people further understand the homosexual’s “language, customs, and dangers,” the Committee compiled a “glossary of homosexual terms and deviant acts.” This glossary accounted for eight pages of their 48-page report titled Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida: A Report of the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee (commonly referred to as the Purple Pamphlet because of its cover). The Committee listed terms like dictionary entries. In their definition, a male homosexual was known as crushed fruit if he “tries to deny he is a homosexual.”
No Crushed Fruit traces this legacy of state-sanctioned homophobia, specifically with attention paid to language. I see poetry as an especially useful tool in this endeavor as it asks viewers to draw their own connections between the past and present.

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